The Child’s True Best Interest

Obtaining guardianship over non-biological children should be easier- and much less humiliating- for Israeli same-sex couples

A woman holds balloons as she participates in the first Gay Pride Parade in Be'er Sheva, Israel, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
Ariel Schalit / AP

Thousands of same-sex couples in Israel apply for a parental order from a family court giving them guardianship over their nonbiological children, rather than seeking to adopt them, in light of the significant bureaucracy involved in the adoption process. But even though the route to a parental order is shorter and simpler than the route to adoption, it is nevertheless exhausting and humiliating for many families. 

Both the state and the family courts demand that same-sex couples, and female couples in particular, supply proof of their relationship as well as the existence of an “authentic bond” with the child. That, in order to guarantee “the stability of the family unit” and “parental reliability,” all in the name of “the best interest of the child.”

But the criteria drawn up by the Justice Ministry — such as the need for an affidavit that the nonbiological mother has never been convicted of a crime of violence or a sexual offense — apply only to same-sex couples who use a sperm donation, and not to heterosexual couples who do. The latter can register a nonbiological father as the child’s father with a simple declaration.

In addition, the criteria are treated differently in different areas of the country; sometimes the state representatives make additional demands, some of them particularly outrageous, such as documenting the fertilization date.

The only way to address these difficulties is to set a clear policy that will guarantee the proper treatment of families headed by same-sex couples. There should be no discrimination against same-sex couples; they should be allowed to establish families and to be parents to their children, with all the rights and obligations that entails. A lesbian couple that decides to have a baby by using a sperm donation, with the intention of raising the child together, should not be treated any differently than a heterosexual couple that brings a child into the world by the same means. The lesbian couple should also be allowed to confirm the nonbiological mother’s parental status based on a declaration, with no need for a legal process.

But as long as a legal process is required, it should at least be made quick, concise and respectful. Similarly, the state must assure that its policy is implemented properly by the relevant welfare and judicial authorities throughout the country, not only in Tel Aviv.

A properly run country must formulate a policy that welcomes all types of parenthood. That is the true best interest of any child.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.